Hollywood has a long history of absorbing Japanese samurai plots – particularly those of Akira Kurosawa – and turning them into Westerns. Seven Samurai became The Magnificent Seven, Yojimbo became A Fistful of Dollars, and so forth. Well, the Japanese are getting some of their own back. Years ago, Clint Eastwood tried to kill the Western in Unforgiven. Now the Japanese have resurrected it in a remake of the same film.
The first teaser for Unforgiven (Yurusarezaru mono) comes to us from /Film, and it actually looks pretty cool. I do not speak Japanese and the voiceover has no subtitles, but we’ve got sweeping vistas, a guy on a horse and Ken Watanabe in the role that Eastwood originated. The original tells the story of an old gunslinger who heads off to collect the bounty on some badly behaved cowboys and comes into contact with his ugly past in the process. It’s a fairly timeless tale and made for just about any nation or time period that had a combo of roving warriors and towns under siege.
Samurai films were easily translated into Westerns because the stories they told were familiar and timeless. They also represented a cultural exchange between two nations that appear, on the surface, to be fairly dissimilar – and further exacerbated by the fact that at least the Eastwood films were actually filmed in Italy by an Italian director.
I think it’s interesting that director Lee Sang-il picked on the movie that is widely considered to be the ‘death of the Western’ for a remake. While Hollywood films like 3:10 To Yuma and The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford have attempted to resurrect the genre, it really has become a dated view of the American past. It will be interesting to see how the remake handles the problems of the original.
Unforgiven opens in Japan on September 13, 2013, but could end up at any of the major festivals beforehand.
Check out the teaser below and let us know what you think about the remake!